Books · Witterings

Reader’s Day – newbooks Magazine 2013

They did it again. Guy, Alison and Madeline plus many others at newbooks magazine decided to do it again and do it better for their second Reader’s Day. You can read all about the first one here.

And they did it again with aplomb!

Having learnt from last year, it was different venue, more spacious, more light. Refreshments were included and this time so was lunch!   Which I must say far exceeded the lunch I had at Guildford Book Festival Readers Day. Thank you Jane. They even managed to somehow sway the weather so it was dry enough to make use of the outside space once lunch came. My only observation that perhaps time allocated for lunch could have been a little bit shorter – say 45 minutes, as many were drifting back and there was a little bit too much hanging around.

However minor this may be the authors were certainly not. They were now in the major category. First up was Sadie Jones, author of The Outcast, Small Wars and The Uninvited Guests who have seen speak before (Guildford Book Festival) all books I have read and enjoyed and all books which were something so completely different from the one before. Sadie is lovely to listen to and I look forward to her new book.

Next up, in a rather female dominated first half (Guy was certainly outnumbered any way during the whole day!) was Jennie Rooney who was there to talk about her book Red Joan, but also about her life. I had started The Opposite of Falling and was around half way through so I took that with me to be signed. She kindly did and wrote that I needed to finish it too! I have obeyed these instructions and did. What fascinated me about Jennie was she was much younger than me and had done so much with her life, and in fact being an author was not her full time role, this was merely a sideline or perhaps her main job as a lawyer at the FA is really the sideline?

Red Joan sounds like a novel that I would enjoy and I have added it to my list of ‘to reads’. Popular as it was on the day, where they were selling books they had run out of all of them. I actually did not buy any books whilst there – finances dictated as such, which was a shame as I could quite easily have bought many and had them all signed.

Still outnumbered Guy introduced us to two male authors, for the afternoon session – one I had heard of Ben Aaronvitch, who has apparently a cult following and one I had not Fergus McNeill, a debut author and a local at that. I had no idea what I was expecting and I was certainly surprised.

First up on stage Ben Aaronvitch was witty, wise. Why does he base his books in London – that is what he knows and where he lives – why make hard work for yourself? He has that edge of cynical humour that made me wonder – ‘why have I not read any of this man’s books?’. The reason was probably summed up by another lady in the audience – that because they are pitched as fantasy and science fiction they are alienating many a new reader. So say I too. Two categories which I get no enjoyment from at all, with the probable exception of Harry Potter. I aim to rectify this and spread the word. I have dug out an old copy of newbooks where he has been featured and I am starting to be introduced to Peter Grant. It had some reminiscences of the Bryant and May stories by Christopher Fowler and I enjoy them so I should see no reason why I should not enjoy these.

Now you could say Fergus McNeill had a lot to live up to. He did but he did it so well, that actually referring back to Ben’s point of being annoyed about being asked the question – why write about London? Fergus actually went through many journeys, train and walking to get the experience of some of his characters. Even featuring a house that ends up being the place in a the book that someone gets murdered – and then meeting said owner of the house. To the point where actually it became it bit too real and then when real life events suddenly took over one Christmas, it seemed his debut novel was about to never reach the book shop shelf. It did and I think if you are a fan of crime, you are going to enjoy these, more so for me as some of the places are fairly local there is always that recognition bit which brings that element of reality to it all.

And as I said at the beginning Guy, et al have done it again! They successfully combined four very different authors with a room full of very different readers who have come from far and not so far to experience a very full and educating Saturday. I wish I had the money to have bought books, I wish I was not feeling so ill that I was debating about whether I was going to make it or not, I am glad I did, but it probably set me back a few days recovery. I wish that I could attend such events as these more often.

I loved listening in to conversations on books and I recognised a few people from last years event. I would have been more communicative if I had been a bit brighter. I was not quite sure about the relevance of the name badges, was it needed or not? Although mine did cover up where I dropped toothpaste down my top, so it did have a use. I also did something which has perhaps given a gilded view on my day as I write this days after I went. I did not make any notes, simply I forgot, but actually spotting someone who was making copious notes I wondered if I picked up more than I would have done, as I was so intent on listening. Pausing to write you can sometimes lose the next thing that is said. You want to savor the day as much as you can and it is always difficult to get it right.

I look forward to see who they get next year, and I will be there without any doubt, especially when I know what I am getting and it is a mere train journey away for me.